Hard work will pay off; Archie will be fine

As the Big Blue Nation knows, I think it’s important to always be transparent with our fans on the things I think it’s important for you to know. I want to take a second today to talk about Archie so you get a better idea of who this young man is.

Archie is totally invested in this program. He is the first one to come to practice every day, the last one out, and oftentimes the guy who is in the gym late at night working on his game and his free-throw shooting. He’ll have a full-blown workout before we even start practice. He is conscientious about the areas he is weak in, so he spends tons of time in the gym working on areas he needs to improve on. He is his own worst critic.

You may watch him and say that he doesn’t pass the ball or he just puts his head down and goes. Well, do you remember DeAndre Liggins? He played that way when I first got him.

Archie is an inconsistent shooter, so what he’s always relied on is putting his head down, being more athletic than the other guy and being a little longer, which allowed him to get layups. That’s what he reverts to when the game gets hairy.

What we’re doing in to help him with that is he’s not allowed to shoot layups in practice. He must pull up in the lane and either shoot pull-up jumpers around the free-throw line or shoot runners. If he shoots a layup, it’s a turnover.

We all want him to be a better defender than he is at this point. He has the physical skills but has never played that way. He doesn’t have the habits or the discipline yet to be that guy, but do you understand that he may be the youngest freshman in the country? He just turned 18.

It’s hard for me to get upset with a player who absolutely wanted to play for me and Kentucky, and who has a focus to get better. Does he get overwhelmed sometimes by being a player here? Yeah, he’s a freshman at the University of Kentucky. Wouldn’t you be?

At the end of the day, he cares about his teammates and he’s frustrated he’s not picking things up quicker. Old habits are hard to break, but he’s doing everything he can to break them, so let’s get behind him.

I am totally with him and you should be too. Our fans should be there to help encourage him knowing how hard he works, how invested he is and how much he’s there for his teammates.

I would rather you criticize me than these kids when things go wrong. They don’t deserve that, plus what good does it do? These kids are 18 and 19 years old. Put yourself in their shoes. You have to remember they are doing everything they can for this team and our fans.

Archie is a winner. He’s not soft. He’s got a mental edge to him. Does he have bad habits? Sure. He has a mindset that needs to be changed on how the game needs to be played, but it’s going to take time.

I want you to look at Alex’s turnaround. You have no idea how hard it was for him or for our staff to get him to that one game yesterday – and folks, it’s only one game. But it shows Alex that he can do this. Now he must build on that game. We thought Archie caught it after Auburn, but they all revert. Ryan played tough, played focused and played to win two weeks ago. Now look. That’s what happens to these kids.

My disappointment always comes back to are you competing or are you getting mushed? Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose? Are you having fun playing or are you into your own game so much that every shot and turnover makes you put your head down and hurt your team?

When we win, let’s enjoy it. When we lose, it’s OK to be miserable for 24 hours, but then move on to the next game. It’s not easy being a player or a coach or a fan at Kentucky. Let’s just keep moving forward.